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Difficult Covers - no one listens to the bass player!!!

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Spinal Tapper, Mar 11, 2008.

  1. Spinal Tapper

    Spinal Tapper

    Nov 15, 2007
    So my band wants to cover Ashes to Ashes by David Bowie.
    I didn't really want to choose this song...I wanted to do something a little more up to date - still obscure, but more current and noticeable to get the crowd going...

    So after explaining my case, we agreed that we would put our own spin on it though, as we usually do with covers. But then everyone just started learning the EXACT parts from the (live version) recording we all listened to, and of course, they want my bass playing to sound just like the bass on the recording.

    If you haven't heard it, it's basically light slapping/popping lines, but consistently through the entire song! Really amazing playing, by a pro on the recording, no doubt.
    The problem is: I don't really want to play it like this - my style is not like this, and my slapping skills are fairly weak, as we have no (original) songs with slapping, mainly driving rock lines. Mainly I think amateur slapping is pompous and showy, and that's just not the angle I'm coming from.

    I'm not underestimating myself, I think I'm a pretty good player, but I'm not going to go on-stage and fakie slap and ultimately I don't think the end result is going to be as awesome as David Bowie or even my band covering David Bowie.

    Any suggestions how to break it down to these guys that I don't think the song will work out because I'm not "good" enough???
  2. fenderhutz

    fenderhutz Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2007
    Harpers Ferry WV
    A fairly rough pluck an emulate a slap sound. If you are not a tribute band, why should it matter?

    I don't think live anyone would care except for the other band members.
  3. emblymouse

    emblymouse exempt Supporting Member

    Jan 22, 2006
    The bass is second only to the vocal in that song, so it's pretty hard to minimalize it. It is unfair, like you picking some AC/DC song for your singer to try and cover. Some things just aren't a fit.
    Then again, maybe this is an opportinity in disguise. As a slap/pop kind of thing, it's not a really difficult one to get your feet wet.
  4. I really hate learning covers...I'm learning some for a band and find it boring and tedious. Most of the covers I will pick they don't want to spend the time learning and the ones they pick are all guitar wank stuff, so really covers suck. When ever I mention this to other older bassists they come up with $$$ and the excuse that people want to hear this stuff but I still think learning covers is boring and a huge waste of my life.
  5. McHack


    Jul 29, 2003
    Central Ohio!
    I was in a band that did Ashes to Ashes, & always felt that the bass line was so prominent, that it was a signature piece of the song, & it NEEDED to be done authentically.
  6. derrico1

    derrico1 Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2005
    Charlottesville, VA
    Put a line on it that's in your voice *and* try the slap line. If neither works, it should be obvious; but you and your bandmates need to hear the bassline in the context of your band's cover to make an informed call.

    No point either party wasting a lot of time digging in on their predictions about how it will/won't work when 30 seconds of listening to each version will let you know.
  7. rkingly

    rkingly "Playing Reverend Basses on a Regular Basis"

    Sep 8, 2007
    Endorsing Artist: Reverend Guitars
    Learning songs that are out of your comfort zone is a great way to become a better player.
    I currently play in a cover band ( for $$$ & gigs ) & the same band writes & records original songs to apply @ shows that promote originals ( opening acts, Outdoor shows, etc )
    I feel that playing covers is not a bad thing. Let's face it you can all do what you want w/ music. I choose to play covers & keep my playing up to par, & I haven't had a real job
    In 6 years. Prior to that I've really only had 1 full time job, to prove to myself that if I chopped off my left hand or something happened to prevent me from playing, that I could provide. After a full year of selling Vacations I quit & went back to playing for a living. Since then I've made a great living playing songs that get you hired. What's the big deal?
    Oopps, I seem to be ranting......
    Back to the issue at hand, Try to learn the song, You will surely benefit. Maybe a fellow bass player in your town could help you w/ the technique.
    Lastly, when I was 20, an R&B/Blues group hired me in a pinch, I had to step up immediately. I had no idea how to play those styles. Started woodshedding & had no trouble locking in w/ the group. As the years have gone by that band is the main reason that I play well w/ most styles of music. They opened my ears & mind.
  8. BigMac5


    Nov 26, 2005
    San Diego, CA
  9. IALE


    Mar 10, 2008
    It's not that your not "good" enough, maybe its just "choosing not to be good enough". I've experienced the same challenge before too.:smug:

    I'm listening to ashes to ashes right now and i think that it is possible to add a few notes in between and still make the song sound good. How about surprising your bandmates with you unique version of basslines? Still sticking to the basic groove but injecting the "flavor" that will make you happy playing that cover. Maybe you once wished to be a very creative bassist, and now the universe is already giving you a chance to be creative. If you just focus on the challenge at hand, you'll be able to do it, can do it! :hyper:

    May the creative force of fellow bassists be with you!:D
  10. I agree with IALE. Take the song and make it your own. As long as you lock with the groove, it should sound fine. I'm not familiar with the song, but I've done this with several covers my band has done (Babylon by David Grey comes to mind).
  11. Baryonyx

    Baryonyx Banned

    Jul 11, 2005
    Marathon Man
    Just get good at slap and go and blow the audience away! :)
  12. nsmar4211


    Nov 11, 2007
    Covers pay the bills :)

    And, look at it this way. When you really learn and cover someone elses bass line/technique to play the bass line, you are getting a free lesson from (usually) a professional.

    If all you ever played was things you made up, without ever playing an existing line (probably not possible).....you're never expanding your horizons.

    And hey...if it's one song......learn it :). It can't hurt you to learn something new!
  13. ChasBass


    Dec 15, 2007
    Charleston, SC
    That sure is an obscure song. I probably skipped over it 100 times on the album.

    Just learn the left hand and fake the right. At the bridge +/or pick will sound ok.

    The band will likely tire of it soon enough.
  14. johnvice


    Sep 7, 2004
    IMHO, all electric bassists should be able to play some slap. This is a great tune to slap as it's an easy slap line. Even if there was no slap, it's such an unusual bass line that you learn it verbatim!

    The bass line is all eighth and quarter notes with lots of eighth note rests. This is good for a novice slap/popper because you have time to get your fingers in the right position and you don't have to execute a flurry of slaps like Victor Wooten or Bruce Lee.

    There is a MIDI of this song at http://www.striker.dk/midi/bowie.mid that you can take the transcription from.
  15. QORC


    Aug 22, 2003
    Elberon, New Jersey
    I have been in similar situations in cover bands. That some basslines are just beyond my abilities or are possible but would require so much effort that they wouldn't be worth it.

    In a previous band, the guitarist was really hot to do a particular Rush tune. I knew the song in my head, but never had tried. I downloaded the tabs and listened closely and realized the lead part was so involved that I would kill myself learning it.

    So I told them - I was like "I could learn 20 other more well known and danceable covers in the time it would take me to do the bassline justice on this." They agreed and it was dropped.
  16. I'd suggest to the band that they do "Heroes" or "The Man who Sold the World" instead...

    Both of these Bowie songs are much better than "Ashes to Ashes", IMO.
  17. Bottom Feeder

    Bottom Feeder encridublee smatr

    Nov 22, 2004
    Huntington Beach, CA
    Then don't do covers. You didn't provide any useful information to OP. Just a hitchhike to gripe about covers?

    To OP, if you play mainly driving tunes, this may be an opportunity for the crowd to take an ear-break and for yourselves as well.
    Personally, I like that tune. I'm not a skilled slapper either but, as another poster mentioned, it is a fairly easy one to try your slap/pop skills. I got the slap/pop groove of it down pretty quickly. Go ahead and add your own style to it while the other members play the more duplicated parts. You can probably pull it off without the popping. It may turn out pretty cool.
  18. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    Ashes to Ashes is a weak song for a cover band. I dont like songs in a setlist like these they put most people to sleep IMO. I agree a rough pluck or up-pluck will work just as a pop. Practice a simple line and nail it. In the coverband world remember when playing a bad song or song you dont like on the setlist...its only 3 or so minutes of suffering then ...next!
  19. Spinal Tapper

    Spinal Tapper

    Nov 15, 2007
    Thanks for everyone's input!
    We played it last night - it turned out to be REALLY easy. Maybe too easy. I agree w/ bassbully. Thing song may put some of our energetic fans to sleep - especially if they don't recognize it.

    We decided once we get the chord progression down, we're going to ad a bit of finesse to the parts and make it our own.

    I still think the song sucks though...at least out of ALL the rest of the songs in the universe to choose from...
  20. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    So why are you learning them? Do you write your own stuff? Where can we hear your music?

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